Small Business

Nine sure-fire networking tips

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Networking is one of the most important business-building activities you can do to boost your business in tough times. Ask a group of successful business owners to list their most effective business-building strategies, and for most, networking would rank highly.

Savvy entrepreneurs recognise that networking provides not only the chance to meet potential referral sources, it also affords them the opportunity to learn from others and gain valuable insight.

Taking the time to attend industry-networking events shouldn’t be scoffed at in a difficult market. Now, more than ever, businesses should be out on the front foot, building their profile, talking to their fellow peers, and soaking up as much information as they can to see their business through.

There are plenty of tips and tricks when it comes to networking – but when it comes to how to work a room (and, importantly, how not to work the room), it’s often best to turn to the professionals for advice.

But what is the best way to go about it?

Kristy Sheppard, senior corporate affairs manager at Mortgage Choice, offers some top tips for business owners to use at networking events.

1. Look sharp

Before arriving, take a long, hard look at your image – ensure your presentation matches your desired image. That includes everything from your business card holder to the way you hold your drink.

2. Have your business cards at the ready

Stock up on business cards – hand them to anyone you become engaged in a one-on-one conversation with, but don’t hand them out willy nilly. Handing them to absolutely everyone, even those people unrelated to your goals, undermines the perceived value of your contact details. Be sure every person you hand them to is actually someone you want to be contactable for.

3. Know your spiel off by heart

Have your ‘elevator speech’ downpat – how would you describe your service offering in 30 seconds? It’s less about your title and your business/the company you work for, and more about what your work actually entails; what value you add to your contacts and customers.

4. Learn to make friends and influence people

Don’t worry about turning up alone – take a deep breath and go through in your head a range of questions you can ask people you come into contact with (if in doubt, ask a question of someone, most people love to talk about themselves).

5. Work the room

An obvious one … work the room – but be relatively subtle about it. You don’t want to be the person who leaves midway through someone’s sentence or only enters a group to talk about themselves, hand out a business card then leave. But make sure you speak to as many people as possible.

6. Be brave – and be interesting

Don’t be nervous about approaching groups. Almost 100 per cent of groups will be happy to have an interesting, attentive, potentially valuable contact enter their conversation.

7. Listen and learn

Show consideration and attention for the people you are networking with – ask open-ended questions, listen intently, ask more questions.

8. Sell yourself and your service offerings

Make sure you get time to discuss your work and what you can offer to business affiliates and other contacts.

9. Know how to move on

How do you walk away from a conversation so you can continue networking? Be honest and say so! When the person you are talking to finishes speaking, say something like:

‘I’ve really enjoyed our discussion and I’d like your contact details so we can talk further. Given we’re all here to network, would you mind if I headed off to meet some other people? I’m sure you have others you’d like to speak with too.’

No one would dare to say no, and by asking the questions, you’ve made them feel like they’re making the final decision around you walking away.

If you’re looking to work on your business rather than being stuck in it, book in for a complimentary business assessment today with Switzer Business Coaching.

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

Published on: Wednesday, December 14, 2011

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